Avengers: Endgame marked the end of the line of three of the original Avengers, including Black Widow, Iron Man, and Captain America. On top of that, two others expected to be retired in the near future, with the help of a new movie (Thor: Love and Thunder) or a TV series (Hawkeye). All of these characters will be replaced in one way or another, with MCU Phase 4 bringing the first new members to join an Avengers team that will face the next Thanos-like threat. But there’s one hero left of the original six whose arc still needs closure. It’s also the one Marvel hero who will never get a full feature film again, but who might still have a future in the MCU.
Endgame concluded the arcs of Natasha, Tony Stark, and Steve Rogers, and further refined the arcs of Clint Barton and Thor. Those two will soon exit the MCU, and hopefully, they’ll get great final chapters of their MCU adventures. But Endgame didn’t feel like the end of the line for Bruce Banner, and that’s because it lacked several satisfying moments.
We never got to see Bruce Banner reach a compromise with Hulk and create the Smart Hulk. We never got a Hulk vs. Thanos rematch. We didn’t even see Smart Hulk involved in that many fighting scenes during the final battle. And Banner’s relationship with Nat also reached its end off-screen.
It was incredibly satisfying to see this new Hulk in Avengers, a hero who people love, and a hero who can put his brains and brawn to good use. After all, he’s partially responsible for the success of the time heist, and he’s the hero who undid the snap to bring everybody back. But the Hulk arc doesn’t feel complete — at least, not yet.
We heard in the past few months that Mark Ruffalo was talking about Hulk with Marvel execs, and it looked like the superhero still had a future in the MCU. The actor, known for his Marvel leaks, has addressed the Hulk matter again during a panel at C2E2 in Chicago. According to ComicBook, Ruffalo said that he’s in talks to join the cast of the She-Hulk series.
That always seemed like a given for the series. She-Hulk, or Jennifer Walters, is Banner’s cousin and she becomes She-Hulk after a blood transfusion from him. That’s the kind of origin story that you’d want to keep in place, as it allows you to further use Hulk in the MCU. A She-Hulk leak revealed recently that the hero would join the Avengers at some point in the future, making her the perfect replacement for Ruffalo’s character.
What Marvel can’t do, however, is a standalone Hulk film, and that’s because it doesn’t own the rights to the character. We’ve known this all along, but Ruffalo reconfirmed it during the panel. But he said that Marvel can definitely still use the character in TV shows.
“Maybe we make it into a series and we jump through the Universal [problem]. Universal owns the rights to Hulk as a standalone movie, so that’s really why we can’t make one,” the actor said. “But, we can do a TV show!”
Ruffalo further elaborated on what he’d like to see next for the character, revealing that he’d like to see Smart Hulk on the run in the future. “I’d probably kind of start him on the run again a little bit. I think that really works and in this new digital age, we’re all surveilled, that might be kind of an interesting dimension to how he stays on the run. That’s probably where we’d start — him deciding ‘I don’t want to do this anymore,’ but it’s hard now because he’s the professor. He’s hard to hide.”
Also, he added that he’d like to see how Banner and Hulk’s conflict would play out, adding that he’d want Wolverine in a Hulk movie as well. “To be totally honest with you, I want to see the movie where Banner and Hulk ultimately have to battle it out and then the Professor is sort of the brainchild of that. Kevin Feige, are you listening? We want Professor Hulk,” he said. “The only person in the universe that Hulk is afraid of is Banner and I want to see the ultimate showdown between the two of them. And maybe Wolverine.”
Ruffalo also teased that he’s waiting for a rematch with Thanos, the one fight we never got to see in Endgame. “I always think you can do more,” the actor said. “There’s a lot of characters and everyone had to have their moment. And there’s a lot of new people. I’m waiting for a rematch.”
Finally, Ruffalo also addressed Banner’s relationship with Nat. He was asked whether he’d change anything about the MCU, to which he replied that he’d want to see more of the romantic relationship between Banner and Nat. “I think I guess I would have liked to have seen Black Widow and Banner give it more of a college try. That stuff is really good.”